United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
March 4, 2015
CITY OF BATON ROUGE, ET AL.
RULING ON MOTION IN LIMINE
STEPHEN C. RIEDLINGER, Magistrate Judge.
Before the court is the Defendants' Motion in Limine. Record document number 35. The motion is opposed.
Defendants seek to have any evidence concerning the performance or termination of former police chief Donald White excluded from the trial, including any reference to such evidence in opening statements and closing arguments. Defendants argued that such evidence is at best circumstantial evidence, and it would not assist the plaintiff in meeting her burden of proof as it would not indicate that Mayor Melvin "Kip" Holden's reasons for selecting White for the job of police chief were false or a pretext for unlawful discrimination.
Plaintiff argued in her opposition that White's actions which led to his termination approximately two years after he was selected for the position would not have occurred if he had been qualified for the position, and Mayor Holden's reasons for terminating White are evidence that White actually lacked the qualifications for the position from the outset. Plaintiff argued that by proving White was not qualified for the position, which is demonstrated by the reasons for his termination, she will have proven that the reasons given for the decision to select him were merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination.
The parties have not listed as Established Facts in the Pretrial Order that either the plaintiff or White were qualified for the police chief position. Consequently, the plaintiff will have to prove that she was qualified for the position, and may also have to prove that she was clearly better qualified than White. The court anticipates the parties will offer at the trial extensive evidence of both the plaintiff's and White's qualifications. The court also anticipates the parties will offer substantial evidence of the qualifications cited and relied on by Mayor Holden for selecting White rather than the plaintiff for the position.
Evidence is relevant if "(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence[, ] and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Rule 401, Fed.R.Evid. To the extent that White's subsequent job performance was not consistent with qualifications cited by the mayor, the trier of jury may reasonably infer that White did not actually have those qualifications and in fact was not qualified for the position. For example, if a proffered reason for selecting White was his communication skills, but later the mayor fired White because he failed to communicate effectively, this may be considered as evidence that White did not have good communication skills.
However, the court cannot at this time confidently predict what evidence of White's post-hire job performance the plaintiffs will offer at the trial. Some of that evidence may relate to his proffered qualifications or the reasons cited by the mayor for selecting him, but some may not. Consequently, the court cannot at this time categorically state what evidence of White's job performance or the reasons for his termination will or will not be admissible at the trial.
Accordingly, the Defendants' Motion in Limine is denied, without prejudice to the defendants objecting to specific evidence at the trial.